Chicago native, entrepreneur, husband and father are just a few ways to describe my fraternal brother Charles Kuykendoll, A.K.A (beloved1906) on his Instagram. Charles is currently the Global Talent Brand and Events Manager at STRIPE, a tech company that focuses on the building of economic infrastructure for the internet while servicing businesses needs to everyone from startups to public companies. Charles has on appeared on tv screens and mobile devices with guest appearances in ‘The Wheel of Fortune’; host of the ‘The Shady Brunch’ by The Shade Room, and with his lovely wife Shireen on Season 5 of Black Love which aired on the OWN Network. Plus, outside of his 9-5, Kuykendoll is not only the founder, but also the host of the RNBHouseParty series, a concert type vibe built around the love of R&B, good vibes, and community! What started as small intimate gatherings, has now grown to a complete experience with tours around the United States.
But when Charles is not on stage hosting large scale events, doing his thing in front of the camera or hopping on zoom calls and team meetings for work, he is a loving and devoted father to his son CJ and husband to his wife Shireen. For Charles, family is the most important asset in his life.
So a couple weeks ago, Charles and I sat down to talk fatherhood, legacy, and the power of presence.
What Does Being A Father Mean To You?
Photo Courtesy of Charles Kuykendoll
Charles: Being a father was my number 1 goal. Growing up, if you asked me what I wanted to be… I wanted to be a dad. That was super important to me, family is important to me. Having an extremely active father, and seeing him pour into his kids the way that he did, and his father, my grandfather who I am named after, made me want to do the same. Fatherhood is the most important job I ever wanted to have.
“My main motivation is my family, and EVERTHING that I do is for them”!
Through that lens I’m working everyday to be the best father that I can be.
How did growing up with your dad impact you as a Father?
Charles: My relationship with my dad was paramount. The value of showing up and being present, understanding that aspect his something I take away from him. What I’ve learned, being a father is that, we can’t dictate our child’s memories. I approach fatherhood, as showing up fully and being the best that I possibly can be and hope that the effort is appreciated.
Do you remember what it felt like to see and hold your son for the first time?
Charles: WOW! Man I got chills just thinking about it! I was the first parent to hold CJ, and at the moment… I was done! It is a moment that I can’t describe! It’s a beautiful moment and it’s also surreal. I had an appreciation for my Wife and God in that moment. Being a father and holding my baby, there is nothing like it. It was just the greatest joy of my life. I thought day I got married was but witnessing the strength of my wife and the birth of my son.. that was it.
How do you create and offer your son space to express himself?
Charles: My and wife I agreed that we wanted to be enablers and index on whatever CJ wants to be or who he wants to be. We set the moral compass on what is right and wrong. But outside of that; I don’t care if its theatre, sports, music, dance… math, we are going to work hard and enable that for him.
While part of me understands that the struggle is what set me up for success the way that it did, I would love to be able to replicate that for my kid; because the struggle is what fueled my drive. It pushed me to be even more forward thinking in my moves and analytical in my mindset. That drive came from being in the hood, being told NO, having to go without. My son is not really going to go through that. And my wife reminded me that, I don’t need to replicate that struggle, because when you pour into your kid the right way, he will have that moral compass to guide him and his decision making. And I feel confident that he will be able to lean into that training we’ve taught him as his parents.
We let CJ have a little more opinion on things, a lot more liberal than what my parents were! My son comes with us into our world! Our world is active, we travel and we see a lot of people. He has assimilated to that lifestyle now!
With the current climate of entrepreneurship and exposure being the best teacher, has your thought process about higher education been impacted when it comes to your son and his future?
Charles: Yes. Growing up my mother told my older brother and I that we were either going to go to college, the army or we were getting out the house, haha. So of course we took the college route. But since I’ve done the work, for CJ the traditional 4 year route might not be the thing. It could be acting, barbering, sports, whatever! We are going to index and pour so much support into that, so he has the best opportunity in that field. His mom and I are going to work hard to ensure we have the means to support his interest.
Can you talk about the importance of having a strong village around you and your children?
Charles: If you’re the most popping person in your circle… you got the wrong circle! That is a methodology that I live by. Everybody that I associate with are at the top of their field and still aiming for higher heights. I surround myself with those upwardly mobile people who are passionate about their work and work hard. What they do, may not be what I do every day, but it’s the inspiration, the motivation, the grind and hustle that I aspire to have. We all push each other…we all celebrate each others WINS!
Success is not linear. You’re going to hit those road bumps and have those trials and tribulations. But being surrounded by those people that understand that when it does occur, you’re not thinking that it’s the end of the world, you’re thinking about the opportunity. What can I learn and how can I get better?! Having those type of people around CJ… I’ve seen that aid in his development. He so comfortable around people, he expresses himself, he is such an extrovert. I feel like that comes from our lifestyle.
How does it feel to have RNBHouseParty BACK in 2021?!
Charles: Its great! Because there were moments in 2020, during the pandemic that I thought… this was never coming back , and I became comfortable with that. But now that we are coming on the backend of the pandemic, I’m grateful that who I am is someone who is able to bring people together. To get back in the swing of things Shireen and I did very small gatherings at our home, with very close friends. I was still that element of bringing people together for good vibes and now I can do it again on a larger scale. Even though we are going to turnup to our R&B, we are still going to do our Gospel set, because we all have a lot to be thankful for! Because 6 months ago, who knew if we were going to be able to do a RNBHouseParty without a mask on?! Our party feels like a family reunion, people coming together again.. I’m grateful.
With all that you do, and have going on, what do you do to collect and center yourself?
Charles: One of the things I try and have time do is listen to gospel music! I listen to gospel music every single day. You would think I’m in the car listening to Chief Keef, but instead I’m jamming to Hezekiah Walker, Kirk Franklin. I live a very fast paced, somewhat stressful life. Those moments allow me to reflect back and be thankful. I’ve had it, I’ve lost it and gotten it back tenfold…
I’m a hustler!
In addition to that, it’s my time with my wife and kid. In the morning I get CJ ready, that’s my time with him, and my wife owns the night. Then my wife and I have our time to debrief and watch our shows. We make sure we have our time. Those are the two most important things do.
As Charles and I wrapped up our conversation in true DearFathers fashion, I had to make sure we ended the conversation with our” Dear Fathers” letter.
Here is Charles letter to his Father:
You’re the G.O.A.T ! Thank you for being present, thank you for doing your absolute best, and thank you for setting me up to live the life I’m living now. I would not change one single thing about my life! If it put me in the place now, that I have with my wife, my kid, professionally, personally… I have no complaints in the world. All of that got me here, I’m grateful for you. I LOVE YOU!
To keep up with Charles, and grab your tickets to the next RNBHousParty near you, be sure to follow him.